Astro2020 Science White Paper: The Local Relics of of Supermassive Black Hole Seeds
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Astro2020 Science White Paper: The Local Relics of of Supermassive Black Hole Seeds

  • Author(s): Greene, Jenny E;
  • Barth, Aaron;
  • Bellini, Andrea;
  • Bellovary, Jillian;
  • Holley-Bockelmann, Kelly;
  • Do, Tuan;
  • Gallo, Elena;
  • Gebhardt, Karl;
  • Gultekin, Kayhan;
  • Haiman, Zoltan;
  • Hosek, Matthew;
  • Kim, Dongwon;
  • Libralato, Mattia;
  • Lu, Jessica;
  • Nyland, Kristina;
  • Malkan, Matthew;
  • Reines, Amy;
  • Seth, Anil;
  • Treu, Tommaso;
  • Walsh, Jonelle;
  • Wrobel, Joan
  • et al.

We have compelling evidence for stellar-mass black holes (BHs) of ~5-80 M_sun that form through the death of massive stars. We also have compelling evidence for so-called supermassive BHs (10^5-10^10 M_sun) that are predominantly found in the centers of galaxies. We have very good reason to believe there must be BHs with masses in the gap between these ranges: the first ~10^9 M_sun BHs are observed only hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang, and all theoretically viable paths to making supermassive BHs require a stage of "intermediate" mass. However, no BHs have yet been reliably detected in the 100-10}^5 M_sun mass range. Uncovering these intermediate-mass BHs of 10^3-10^5 M_sun is within reach in the coming decade. In this white paper we highlight the crucial role that 30-m class telescopes will play in dynamically detecting intermediate-mass black holes, should they exist.

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